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Taking advantage of the ‘innovative’ years

During his lec­ture on campus Wednesday night, con­sumer cru­sader and envi­ron­men­talist Ralph Nader asked audi­ence mem­bers to raise their hand if they reg­u­larly see tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials for new cars. Then he asked how many have seen one com­mer­cial for public trans­porta­tion. Not nearly as many hands shot up.

The exer­cise high­lighted two of Nader’s core themes throughout the evening: the cor­po­rate power in Amer­ican society today and his plea for stu­dents to become more civi­cally engaged on issues that ben­efit both society and the envi­ron­ment.

“[This] is the most inno­v­a­tive decade of your lives,” Nader told sev­eral hun­dred people who packed the Blackman Audi­to­rium on Wednesday night, many of whom were stu­dents. “You will never be as imag­i­na­tive, as pio­neering as you will be in your 20s.”

The Husky Envi­ron­mental Action Com­mittee (HEAT) — a North­eastern stu­dent group focused on envi­ron­mental sus­tain­ability and carbon neu­trality — spon­sored the event.

Throughout his career, Nader has launched pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns and played a cru­cial role in the cre­ation of numerous con­sumer pro­tec­tion laws and the estab­lish­ment of orga­ni­za­tions such as the Public Interest Research Group. His latest book is enti­tled “Get­ting Steamed to Over­come Cor­po­ratism.”

During his lec­ture, he decried the cor­po­rate influ­ence on society.

He also noted the story of Ray Anderson, the founder of the carpet man­u­fac­turing com­pany Inter­face. In 1994, Anderson, who died last year, made a con­scious effort to reduce his company’s carbon foot­print while still turning a profit.

Nader called him “one of the greatest cor­po­rate exec­u­tives in Amer­ican his­tory,” but lamented the fact that his eco-​​friendly approach has not caught on in cor­po­rate America.

On the other hand, envi­ron­mental action on col­lege cam­puses is stronger than ever, noted Nader, who hailed HEAT and other stu­dent groups for pro­moting recy­cling and energy effi­ciency.

He noted, how­ever, that col­lege stu­dents of past gen­er­a­tions had “more fire in their belly” than those today.

Nader encour­aged stu­dents to use new tech­nology to make a dif­fer­ence in their com­mu­ni­ties and take a stand on issues of national and global sig­nif­i­cance.

He even urged stu­dents to head into their co-​​op expe­ri­ences armed with the con­fi­dence and ambi­tion to bring their own ideas to the table.

Stu­dents, he said, should not let the neg­a­tive rhetoric of polit­ical cam­paigns turn off their pas­sion for pol­i­tics.” The more you’ve turned off pol­i­tics, the more pol­i­tics will turn on you,” he said.

– by Greg St. Martin

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